In a writing rut? You might be too comfortable. Simply by braving a new genre, this award-winning author not only sliced through writer’s block, but discovered the key to greatness.
by Rachael Tamayo
You’ve done it. Written one book and it’s been published. Readers are loving it. Along comes book two. And so on and so on. Then one day, as you open a new file and stare at that blank page, you realize something that every author faces.
You have no ideas. No clue. No grand scheme. The seed of your idea has withered and died as if left on the concrete to scorch in the desert sun. It was a good idea, wasn’t it? It had so much potential, right? It would have been the one, surely. So what happened? Why is this blank page so looming? Daunting? Threatening, even?
It’s so easy to fall into writing ruts. What’s easy, known, and comfortable. Maybe it’s a character type, a certain plotline, or even a setting or the underlying theme. Something somewhere is screaming at you to make a change, and this is often where writer’s block comes into play. I found this to be true myself, all too recently. After finishing book three in my Deadly Sins series, I found myself in this situation for months, unsure of what was holding me up since I’d been on a roll for three books straight. I blamed it on 2021, Covid, and stress.
Yet still, nothing came to me. I was beyond annoyed, bordering on frustration.
Reaching out into the unknown blackness and braving a whole new genre might be just what the doctor ordered.
I’m one to let things simmer. I set it on the back burner, knowing that it would come to me, as it always has. Yet it didn’t. I started and scrapped a few times, knowing that it just wasn’t right. Then I started to google and found advice on this very subject from the great and prolific Stephen King. He speaks about this very thing, and there are articles on his issue with it when he wrote The Stand.
“Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.”
—Stephen King (Rowe, 2019)
And this is the truth. So, what does this have to do with ruts and writer’s block? Could be everything. This is where stepping just outside of your comfort zone comes into play. Reaching out into the unknown blackness and braving a whole new genre might be just what the doctor ordered. A romance is a romance is a romance. As goes any genre. How many thrillers are about the poor, put-upon woman escaping her abusive husband? How many more about serial killers? As a thriller author, this is where I struggle. The need to stand out yet be part of the mainstream. I never wanted to be one of a thousand. I want to stand with the best yet be noticeably different. And in order to do that, I had to do one thing.
I had to step outside the box I had learned to write in.
So, as an avid thriller lover, I decided to brave my first horror read. Since horror is so closely related to thrillers, suspense, and psychological fiction, it was a lateral move, but one that still scared me. I cured my writer’s block by stepping out of my rut, reading out of my comfort zone, and learning something new from a brand-new place. Doing what writers often do, and not just reading, but studying the books we intake and dissecting them in our minds as we partake of the tale meant to entertain us.
What did I read? Gerald’s Game, by Stephen King. In reading this, one thing struck me. King wrote an entire book about a woman cuffed to a bed. Almost the entire plot took place in one character’s mind, in one place, and still, I was riveted. I took a lot away from this book and realized that I could do better. I could learn more. I could step outside of my safe little box. I picked up another, and another. As I read and looked through his books, I realized how different his stories are. Character-based plots, and so vastly different. He doesn’t tell the same story twice.
And in doing this, my writer’s block finally was gone.
I cured my writer’s block by stepping out of my rut, reading out of my comfort zone, and learning something new from a brand-new place.
As writers, we should always be evolving, learning, growing. The authors that realize this, seeing that they can always do more, listening to those that offer advice, taking the cues of their readers and their editors to heart, these are the authors that will grow to greatness. These are the writers and storytellers that will not be afraid to step out of their rut and into the unknown.
So, writers and readers, don’t be afraid of the darkness outside of your little box. Maybe you should embrace it.
Rowe, B. (2019, January 10). Why Reading is the Cornerstone of a Writer’s Life. Medium. https://medium.com/read-watch-write-repeat/why-reading-is-the-cornerstone-of-a-writers-life-584a7bc26f9e
Rachael Tamayo is the bestselling author of the Deadly Sins books, among several other award-winning and award-nominated titles. She is a former 911 operator and twelve-year veteran with slight PTSD who now pens psychological fiction. Her 911 service gave her a unique insight into mental illness, human behavior, and the choices humans make when faced with bad, bad things that she weaves into her characters and plots. The Houston, Texas, native lives with her husband and their two children.
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